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Time up for Buhari on Nigeria’s failed economy

By Phrank Shaibu 

It is indeed sad and unfortunate that Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed said that the President Buhari administration has resolved to mobilize more domestic revenue, which translates to imposing more taxes on Nigerians living and earning their daily bread, in Nigeria, so that it can better fund the 2019 budget. First of all, a simple analysis of the 2018 budget under Buhari clearly shows there is a wide gap between what is in the budget and what is actually generated. This is a clear indicator that those who prepared the budget just mashed up figures on bogus speculations and baseless expectations rather than proper predictions and study of realities of hard economic facts of the day.

The recent decision of the widely acclaimed failed Buhari administration to now impose new taxes on Nigerians as a means of financing the 2019 budget is akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face. Certainly this is a perfect proof that this government cares little or has nothing to genuinely offer on the welfare of ordinary Nigerians and would not hesitate to dish out more suffering to the people, especially given that the their budget projections for 2019 might as usual fail again abysmally.

In fact, any discerning Nigerian ought to be seriously worried by the disturbing statement of the Finance Minister, where she not only confirmed the intention of the Buhari led administration to generate additional revenue from the already distressed Nigerians through a new set of taxes and excise duties. That the Buhari administration will invoke the full authority of Federal might, using the FIRS and Customs to impose enforcement cum compliance on hapless Nigerians in the face of this harsh economic realities, is very sad. In other words, it is now quite obvious that the government of the day has already made up its mind on those selectively targeted to suffer from this new taxes and there are no prizes for guessing that civil servants and owners of small, micro businesses will be the hardest hit by the new taxes.

Again, it is quite disappointing to note that the same Buhari’s administration had not too long ago, imposed another curious tax by releasing an Executive Order tagged ‘Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS), which took effect from October 8, the day it was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari himself. Obviously, what this translates to is that while the VOARS was intended to milk Nigerian taxpayers who hold offshore assets and earn income by forcing them to declare those assets and pay a whopping 35% taxes on them within a period of 12 months, the obnoxious sounding Executive order 008 equally contains the unveiled threat that the federal government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, will set up a VOARS in Switzerland to prosecute anybody deemed to have defaulted in the declaration of their offshore assets, payment of taxes due and collectibles, subject to the fulfilment of the terms and conditions as stipulated in the order, or any other subsequent complementary regulations that follow.

The surreptitious unleashing of Executive order 008 on industrious and hardworking Nigerians, who by their individual talents and ingenuity, have expanded their businesses and careers into new territories and frontiers, with the threat of prosecution hanging over them in the event of late compliance can only take place in a dictatorial and killjoy government which takes wicked pleasure in exploiting their fellow countrymen and women whilst making hardworking Nigerians suffer. As if this is not enough, now the government has planned to come down hard on those earning their living in Nigeria, with this new taxes it announced to impose, after making the last four years a living hell for Nigerians, all in the guise of funding a budget which has no clear alternative of revenue generation or of growing the economy. The fact that the Minister of Finance even suggested that they might have to go to the National Assembly to amend some already existing laws that have been identified, to effect this draconian taxation, is just a deceitful ruse to legitimize the moral illegitimacy and economic mismanagement of imposing new taxes on Nigerians.

On the 2019 Budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the joint session of the National Assembly recently, it is important to echo the widely held notion across a broad spectrum of economic experts, that there was nothing to suggest that the present APC government has the capacity or intelligence to turn the bleak economic forecasts around. This is why Nigerians must be clear eyed to the fact that the only solution now to get Nigeria working again and grow the economy from the ruins which the Buhari administration has sunk it into, is Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his team. For emphasis, Atiku’s track records as former vice President, coupled with the excellent team of technocrats and financial experts he has assembled, headed by his Vice Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, as well as the swift and prompt way and manner he and the PDP have composed and structured the campaign organization almost effortlessly, what is quite obvious to Nigerians now is that here is a man and a team ready and prepared to roll up their sleeves and get down to the task of getting Nigeria working again from the first day they will take charge of the country and the Nigerian economy.

The very fact that most Financial experts have already declared the 2019 budget as 'Dead on Arrival' given that it is a budget designed for debt servicing, yet with no clear indication of the financial model by which it will be funded, also lends credence to the Finance Minister's option of imposing new taxes on Nigerians, which is a lazy and unintelligent alternative, already associated with a government that does not have the capacity to think outside the box or rise above the deceitful propaganda of claiming what it cannot achieve.

In reality as the bad economic situation stands now as confessed by President Buhari himself, dwelling too much on the leadership failure of the Buhari administration and mismanagement of the Nigerian Economy by the APC, is a waste of time because the ruling party simply have nothing else to offer. In fact, any worthy economic analyst on the affairs of Nigeria or good follower of comments of renowned International financial agencies ought to know that there will be no bright future for Nigeria if we allow Buhari and APC to continue beyond 2019. In most countries with vibrant legislature, it will be hard for a government as led by Buhari to even remain in office up till now without being impeached democratically given how abysmally they have performed by their own admission and the very bleak projections they are offering Nigerians post 2019.

Nevertheless, there are options for the Nigerian majority that fell the deep pains of suffering inflicted upon them by this clueless administration because the fact however remains that we are a constitutional democracy and we must wait for the appropriate time to vote them out, which is 2019. Nigerians will not be deceived or carried away by the sentiments and emotions which the negative propaganda of APC dredged up in 2015 because hunger and lack will combine to effectively build a critical mass of voters that will change the government in a free and fair election. What Nigerians are looking for now is who is going to make their lives better and which political party will offer them a better and secured future, instead of imposing more taxes on them and taking their lives to a horrible and miserable next level. Nigeria is a great country but the APC in the last four years had taken Nigerians to the depths of poverty and suffering, the likes of which we have never witnessed or experienced as a collective people before in this country.

**Shaibu, is SA Public Communication to Atiku Abubakar